She is beautiful: the star attraction this afternoon on the South Bank. All white, Aurora is a giant polar bear about the height of a double-decker bus. Her legs lumber along the streets, and her head moves when she opens her mouth to roar. It has to be said that she is human-powered, with people inside at the controls – oh, and she has a mast reminiscent of Rainbow Warrior and steps at her behind.
Quakers had decided to support the Greenpeace Aurora event, through the QPSW committee that I am part of – and so Annie and I went along, in a procession of approaching 3000 protesters, I estimate. We ended up at Shell House – Shell is leading the oil companies in the rush to extract oil and gas from the Arctic, just at a time when the sea ice there is melting away.
This campaign is designed to stop the exploitation of the Arctic, with a ban on drilling for fossil fuels,and to leave it as unspoilt wilderness. Shell had obtained an injunction against Greenpeace, but the marchers were invited to defy this symbolically by crossing the line around the building to draw their footprints in chalk on the pavement.
There were rousing speeches from the steps of Aurora by the Director of Greenpeace and by two women from the First Nations people of the Arctic. One, an elder, spoke of how they were guardians of the Arctic for all time and called on “spirit-people” everywhere to make common causeto save the Earth. She intoned and sang an Inuit prayer that had come to her in a dream. It was very moving.
Aurora will go on her travels to other countries, as part of a world-wide campaign.
Written by Colin Hall, Clerk to Luton Quaker Meeting who along with his wife Anne attended the Greenpeace Aurora protest on a rainy Sunday September 15th in London. With thanks also to Colin for the supplied images.